Painting on Paper with Acrylics


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How do you use acrylic paint on paper?

Acrylic paint is a popular medium for all levels of painters, from the absolute beginner to the established professional. Part of what makes it so easy to use is that it is a water-soluble paint made from a plastic polymer that can be painted on any surface that is not too oily or shiny and can be used in different ways such as a fine watercolor, thick like oil, or mixed with other media.

Paper provides an excellent flexible surface, also known as a backing, on which to paint with acrylics. It's portable, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive compared to canvas, bedding, and other prepared countertops. The paper is especially good for small to medium-sized paintings or studios and can also be used for larger paintings when a suitable thick paper is chosen, or when used as part of a series, such as in a triptych. When properly prepared, it can accept a wide range of acrylic and mixed uses.

What makes a good paper to paint?

The paper must be durable to resist tearing from erasing, heavy painting, sanding, rubbing, scraping, and other techniques. Paper made from cotton or linen pulp tends to be stronger and more durable than paper made from wood, which can contain acids. You can see it labeled "100% cotton" or "100% linen" or "pure cotton rag".

The paper should be thick. You want to choose a thicker paper that won't warp when you use a lot of water or medium with your painting (unless you do some quick studies and don't worry about sagging). We recommend that you use at least 300 g / m2 (140 lb) to avoid sagging. The heavier weights are even sturdier and can be more easily mounted on a board or canvas.

The paper should be acid-free for longevity. The acidity of the paper is an indicator of its archival quality or its durability. You want neutral pH paper, which means that the cellulose pulp should be neutral in pH, and whatever primer you use should be free of any chemicals that can cause acidity. High-quality papers will indicate that they do not contain acid.

The paper should not fade over time. Papers that contain acidic components are prone to yellowing, discoloration, and becoming brittle over time. These papers are cheaper papers like plain paper, brown wrapping paper, newsprint, etc.

The paper should not be shiny, greasy, or too smooth. The paper is available in different textures. It must have enough teeth or surface texture to absorb the pigment. There are different paper roughnesses available in watercolor papers: cold-pressed watercolor paper is generally rougher and has more teeth, while the hot-pressed paper is softer. The smooth paper allows the brush to glide easily across the surface and is great for detailed work, but may also not absorb paint. A rougher, more textured paper is suitable for loose, expressive work and "happy accidents" of texture details. Some papers mimic the textures of the canvas, such as the Canson Foundation's Canva paper pads and the Winsor & Newton Galeria acrylic colored paper pads.


As long as you've chosen a high-quality acid-free paper, you can paint acrylic directly onto the surface of the paper and be assured that your painting will be archival quality. When painting with acrylic, it is not necessary to prime the paper first because the paint, a plastic polymer, will not damage the paper. However, the paper will still absorb some of the moisture and pigments from the first layers of paint. This is true even if the highest quality paper is treated with surface glue to make it waterproof. So if you want the paint to run more smoothly at first, we recommend applying at least two coats of acrylic plaster before painting.

If you are using paper that is not acid-free, you should grease both sides of the paper to seal it before you start painting. If you prefer a clear sealer, you can also use a matte or medium gel to prime both sides.

Recommended documents

  • Good Quality Heavyweight Watercolor Paper: This paper resists heavy paint application and the texture of the paper shows when the paint is used in a thin layer such as watercolor. You can choose to prime or leave it unprimed. Try Arches watercolor paper (at least 300gsm).
  • Canson Montval Acrylic Paper: This high-quality paper is made in France. and supports all uses of acrylic. This is a super heavy textured paper (400g / m2, 185lb), strong enough to withstand all uses of acrylic, with a surface that accepts paint beautifully.
  • Strathmore 400 Series Acrylic Stamps: This is a heavyweight (400gsm) paper with a serrated surface made for the acrylic artist. The paper has a cream-colored linen finish. The pad is portable, easy to work with, and the sheets tear cleanly and easily. Very useful for sketches and small studies.
  • Strathmore 300 Series Canvas Paper Tablets: Can be used for practice only. It is a lighter paper (187 g / m2) that mimics the texture of the canvas. The first coat of paint tends to drip on this paper, however, most of the time you prefer to apply a coat or two of plaster before painting over it. This pillow is available in several convenient sizes ranging from 6 x 6 inches to 16 x 20 inches.
  • Bristol Strathmore 400 Series Cardboard Stamps:  If you want to paint a slightly smoother surface, Bristol Vellum is a good choice. This paper does not contain acid.

You can paint on many different surfaces with acrylic paint. While good quality acid-free papers are best for archiving, don't be afraid to try other papers as well. You never know what you may discover and enjoy.

Enjoy The Video Tutorial about How to Paint On Paper with Acrylic, painting for beginners!

Source: CLIVE 5ART

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